Bangladesh is ‘very proud’ of its cricket team of people with disability: ICRC delegation chief

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) will continue to support cricket for people with disability and is working to have the International Cricket Council on board.

Nurul Islam
Published : 31 August 2015, 05:27 PM
Updated : 1 Sept 2015, 02:29 PM

The organisation says it was inspired by Bangladesh’s support in organising the first such tournament.

“When I proposed this tournament (to the Bangladesh authorities), it was supported immediately in a way that we had to go ahead,” the ICRC head of delegation in Bangladesh, Christine Cipolla, told ​ on Monday.

“We did not face any questions,” she said in an interview ahead of the five-nation international cricket tournament of people with disability beginning in Dhaka on Sep 2.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will open this nine-day Twenty20 event at the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium in Mirpur, where Bangladesh will face England in the opening match. India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan are the other participants.

The ICRC’s local office head said they took the initiative to highlight the plight of the physically challenged for their better social integration.

The ICRC plays a humanitarian role globally in cases of natural disasters and war situations. It had played a similar role during Bangladesh’s War of Independence.

After five years of operation, it decided to close its Dhaka office in 1975, but re-established it in 2006.

It is running a physical disability rehabilitation project at the Centre for Rehabilitation of Paralysed (CRP).

Cipolla said they were running the project with the belief that people with disabilities “deserve to regain mobility, deserve to have a dignified life and deserve to be included in social activities”.

“There should be no barrier. We associated disability and cricket because cricket is the most popular sporting activity not only in Bangladesh but also in the region,” she said.

The process started in 2013 from the CRP.

The CRP developed a cricket team with ICRC support in 2013 to play against the Disabled Sporting Society (DSS) of India.

Later, in 2014, together with organisations working with disability, they took initiatives to promote cricket for physically disabled persons.

Seminars and workshops were organised to raise awareness about disability cricket. The English and Wales Cricket Board’s head of disability, Ian Martin, also came to Dhaka to take part in the workshop.

As a follow-up measure, the ICRC organised a talent-hunt camp this year in February to form the Bangladesh team.

Cipolla said they were overwhelmed by the participation seen at the camp. Some 149 people took part in the talent hunt, from whom a 20-member team was created.

She said the Bangladesh Cricket Board’s (BCB) endorsement of the team was a “huge step” and hoped the BCB would continue supporting the team.

“We definitely will continue to support,” she said when asked.

“Under this (the BCB) umbrella we can do a lot of things. We’ll be with them,” she said.

Asked about the challenges in organising the tournament, she said: “We felt strongly supported in the whole process. It was very much welcomed. The collaboration was excellent, and is excellent still.”

“(The feeling is that) the country was ready for that, and having a disabled cricket team, I believe, the country is very proud of the team”.

She said they planned to host the tournament next year again and with the participation of a greater number of countries.

“The more we talk about disability, we think people living with disabilities will be better assimilated in society,” she said.

The ICRC official said they were already in touch with the ICC to have them on board.

“They will send their representative to this tournament. Having ICC involvement will be a breakthrough. It is taking shape in a good manner,” she said.

The ICRC is used to organising sport activities in Afghanistan.

“But we got a strong inspiration to host the cricket tournament in Bangladesh.”

“I believe that cricket can unite people of the country. I am feeling privileged to be an initiator of this wonderful cricket game.”

Cipolla said the players were unknown a year ago. “But now they are under the spotlight because they are skilled and are another human being.”

“They are extremely motivated.”

Bangladesh national cricket captain Mashrafe Bin Mortaza is the tournament’s brand ambassador.

Bangladesh’s first internet newspaper, ​, is the event’s media partner.